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Survey measures NT explosion

Market research firm Dataquest forecasts that Windows NT will show the largest market growth in 1997 with an estimated sales increase of 156 percent.

Market research firm Dataquest issued a forecast for the operating system market that states Windows NT will show the largest market growth in 1997 with an estimated sales increase of 156 percent.

Overall, the market for operating systems--including Windows 3.x, Windows 95 and NT, Unix, and Macintosh--will continue to show strong growth. Dataquest predicts new shipments will reach 86.5 million units in 1997, up 18.8 percent from 1996 shipment totals.

Microsoft's Windows 95 grew the most in 1996, with total shipments reaching almost 40 million units; the company is expected to ship 63 million units in 1997. The software giant also shipped over 20 million units of Windows 3.1 in 1996, its older 16-bit operating system, as many companies delayed migration to Windows NT.

But this year, Windows NT will grow the fastest with accelerating NT adoption by corporations, according to Chris Le Tocq, principal analyst for Dataquest. In 1997, the research firm expects 5.6 million copies of NT to ship, compared with 2.2 million the year before. By comparison, Unix will ship only 1.3 million units.

"Windows NT on the client side did not have the anticipated growth [in 1996]," Le Tocq said. Many organizations have the perception that NT wasn't "mature" enough for use in a corporation's critical applications, he added. With NT 4.0, there's been a turnaround in perception which will spur growth in 1997, according to Le Tocq.

Transitions from one operating system to another take time as individuals and corporations need to learn how to migrate. "We're seeing this year with Windows 95 that just now there are volume conversions from Windows 3.x, and that was released in [the fall] of 1995," he noted.

Apple's Macintosh operating system is also expected to contribute to market growth, albeit only slightly. Dataquest expects about 5 million units to ship in 1997, compared with 4 million the year before. Le Tocq says that increased sales of Apple's notebooks will be the primary reason for the growth.